Donald Trump and the (re)Militarization of American Police

As you may or may not have heard, last week your president (not mine) signed an executive order to reinstate the 1033 Program. I wrote the following post to give you some background on 1033, what it is, why it was removed, and what its reinstatement means for the United States. 

DumpSigning
Your President Acting Up, 2017

The Background:

Let’s begin with how we even got to this point. Back in 1990, Congress launched the “1033 Program” as part of the 1990 National Defense Authorization Act (bill signed by George H. W. Bush). Section 1208 of this bill acts as a clause that allows the Defense Department to transfer extra military hardware and equipment to state and local law enforcement, as a means of “combating drug activities.” This clause was created and enforced to assist in combating the “war on drugs,” and I call BS because we know now that the War on Drugs was in fact just a war on Black and Brown communities. The 1990 National Defense Authorization Act sought to effectively militarize the attacks on those communities while “saving money” by not scrapping the extra military gear that was going unused (can we just stop right here for a minute and discuss how the mere existence of huge amounts of excess military gear is a clear indication of a need to reduce military spending? No? Guess that’s just me.)

WarOnDrugs
The “War on Drugs” was code for a war on Black and Brown bodies

 

 

Side Note: When the 1033 Program was launched, Congress was under Democrat control. But we’ll save that for a different post. *sips tea*

Since that time, the Pentagon has poured unbelievable amounts of combat gear to local police departments, regardless of population or crime rate (it should be noted that neither of these factors justifies the militarization of a local police department, but I digress). You know what comes with military weapons? Military tactics. Which brings us to August of 2014, when the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson caused widespread protests and unrest, particularly in the city where Michael was murdered: Ferguson, Missouri.

Armed with assault rifles, MRAP (stands for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles, and military-grade body armor, Ferguson PD took to the streets and quite literally behaved as though they were soldiers engaging in combat. Smoke bombs, tear gas canisters, rubber bullets rained on UNARMED American citizens exercising their legal rights to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. Our televisions were flooded with images of officers who swore to protect and serve training their high-caliber weapons on unarmed people. Ultimately, Ferguson PD declared war on its citizens; Citizens who were (not coincidently) mostly Black.

Ferguson
Ferguson, Missouri, 2014

In December 2014, then-president Barack Obama issued a report/evaluation of the 1033 Program, which highlighted the immediate need of radical reformation of not just policing in America, but what role the federal government played in that reformation. As a start, in early 2015, President Obama placed restrictions on what equipment state and local law enforcement agencies could obtain.

Image result for Militarization of police
Los Angeles Police, 2016

Now that you have that background, let’s move on to Donald Trump’s (again, yall’s president, not mine) executive order.

The New Executive Order:

On Monday, August 28th, Donald Trump signed an executive order to reverse the restrictions Barack Obama placed on the state and local police departments’ obtainment of combat gear. Specifically, he reinstated the “1033 Program” in all its glory. I believe it’s worth noting that he signed this order while Texas was being ravaged by Hurricane Harvey and reports of this reinstatement were overshadowed. I don’t believe that was a coincidence at all. But again, I digress.

Here are just a few items that may be coming to a police department near you:

  • Grenade Launchers
  • Firearms of .50 Caliber or Higher
  • Ammunition of .50 Caliber or Higher
  • Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles
  • Bayonets
  • Weaponized Aircrafts
  • Weaponized Vessels
  • Weaponized Vehicles
  • Explosives and Pyrotechnics
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
  • And More

Did I mention that these police departments are getting this equipment for free? Yup. They’re paying nada. Terrorizing our communities for Free.99.

GrenadeLauncher
A soldier with a grenade launcher. Or he might be a police officer with a grenade launcher. At this point we can’t tell the difference. *shrugs*

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the reinstatement of the 1033 Program to the National Fraternal Order of Police, which then caused them to erupt in applause. He told the group that Donald Trump would ensure that they had the equipment they needed to do their jobs. Maybe I’m confused, because I’m not understanding what part of your job calls for grenade launchers and assault rifles.

Effect:

This means exactly what you think it means—Donald Trump’s administration is further militarizing the police, and making it impossible to encourage any resemblance of  reformation to a community policing model. Many civil liberties groups (backed by tons of research) believe that this will lead to more violent confrontations between police and protesters. What does this mean for Black and Brown communities, who have long complained about over-aggressive policing in their neighborhoods? It means that the Trump administration has sent a clear message: It has no interest in policing reformation or reassessment. It would much rather arm its soldiers for war.

Image result for police state
Image courtesy of popularresistance.org

Police State:

Noun

  1. A nation in which the police (sometimes secret police) summarily suppresses any social, economic, or political act that conflicts with governmental policy.

 

Fundamentally, a police state is a totalitarian state that uses the police to limit the freedom of its citizens, and we are in the midst of a transition to this form of governing. I’m of the sincere belief that Donald Trump knows full well that arming the police with military-grade gear will increase tensions and cause more violent interactions. I think he intends to cause these conflicts so that he can later use them as justification for the “law and order” tactics he’ll be rolling out soon. Be on the lookout for another post in the near future on the United States’ current shift to a full police state.

And as a final point, if you’re reading this and brushing it off thinking these tactics would never be used against your community because you’re not Black or Brown, you’re in for a rude awakening. This is just the beginning.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to type it below or on this post on my Instagram page: @_MicaNicole

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